Melissa Gordon

Ironer, 2008

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Explore Sydney Contemporary

Melissa Gordon, Ironer, 2008

Melissa Gordon

(American, b. 1981)

Ironer, 2008
signed, titled and dated on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
90 by 81 cm.

Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Private Collection, United States

AUD $ 8,000

Payment over 10 months with Art Money available

Key Points

  • Melissa Gordon is an American-born, London-based artist who also teaches at the prestigious Goldsmith’s University in London
  • Her work engages with the legacy of modernism, often from a critical feminist perspective
  • Gordon’s work has been exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin and Wiels in Brussels amongst others

In Context

An engagement with the legacy of modernism, and in particular the modernist grid, runs throughout Melissa Gordon’s oeuvre. In a different body of work she has highlighted the physical deterioration of modern masterpieces by enlarging details of craquelure in paintings by artists such as Piet Mondriaan, and she often approaches the male-dominated history of modern art from a feminist angle. 

“Melissa Gordon’s work is laden with the weight of history, an abundance of factual information and powerful media imagery reproduced to the point of exhaustion.“

– S1 Art Space

This preoccupation with the legacy of modernism’s ambitions is perfectly captured in Ironer from 2008, in which Gordon takes on the modernist (and Greenberg’s) aspirations of flatness. The image shows a man on a ladder, bespectacled and dressed up, climbing the back of a great elephant. With one hand he is stretching the animal’s skin, whilst his other hand holds an iron that has already flattened half of the wrinkles on the elephant. 

The scene is an elaborate in-joke on the ambition to reduce painting to increasingly flatter surfaces. From Monet to Cézanne, Picasso and finally the American minimal artists, painting became increasingly more abstract, minimal and flat. By emphasising the medium’s most fundamental properties (paint on canvas), the artists would arrive at the purest form of art — so they argued. 

Frank Stella, Hyena Stomp, 1962
Tate Modern, London
Detail of the pattern in Melissa Gordon’s painting ‘Ironer’

But Melissa Gordon’s painting points to the absurdity in this argument: ultimately, the canvas is a three-dimensional object, and there is nothing profound in abstract geometric shapes. The elephant in her painting is depicted on a card that has been placed inside the pocket of a shirt, which features the recognisable pattern of a geometric Frank Stella painting from the 1960s. The shirt (when ironed), might be flat, but it is still a three-dimensional object. Moreover, despite Stella’s radical intentions and ambitious claims, his geometries lend themselves equally well to decorative fabric patterns.

The market

Melissa Gordon is an established mid-career artist who is represented by a prestigious New York gallery, Marianne Boesky. She has exhibited at important museums such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Walter Gropius Bau in Berlin and Wiels in Brussels. Yet despite institutional recognition and critical acclaim, her primary and secondary market prices are still relatively low. Large paintings retail at USD 10,000 at her gallery, which makes the present work attractively priced.

Melissa Gordon, Character Development, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 150 by 114.5 cm.
Sold for: USD 9,300 (AUD 12,700)
(Phillips New York, April 2014)
Melissa Gordon, Harmonic Analysis, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 170 by 149 cm.
Gallery price: USD 10,000   (AUD 13,700)

Melissa Gordon at the Vleeshal, Middelburg, 2016


Melissa Gordon was born in the United States but based in London, where she also lectures at the prestigious Goldsmiths University. A mid-career artist with established representation from Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, her work has been exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, the Bonner Kunstverein, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, the Zabludowicz Collection in London and Wiels in Brussels.

Selected solo exhibitions
2022 Towner, Eastbourne
2019 Deweer Gallery, Belgium
2016 Cosar HMT, Dusseldorf
2016 De Vleeshal, Middelburg
2014 Marianne Boesky, New York
2014 Juliette Jongma, Amsterdam
2012 Marianne Boesky, New York
2009 Marianne Boesky,  New York

Selected group exhibitions
2018 Boesky Gallery, New York
2017 Wiels, Brussels
2017 Kunsthal Oslo
2015 Artists Space, New York
2013 Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn
2012 Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin
2010 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
2010 Kavi Gupta, Chicago
2007 Timothy Taylor, London

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.